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Brain Game: Tsonga Owned The Baseline Against Federer

Toronto, Canada

Federer© Getty ImagesJo-Wilfired Tsonga did not face a single break point on serve against Roger Federer.

Brain Game author Craig O’Shannessy breaks down the Rogers Cup final.

Roger Federer owned the net but was dominated in baseline play in falling to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Rogers Cup on Sunday.

Tsonga won 7-5, 7-6(3) and had to withstand a net onslaught from Federer, who basically abandoned the baseline to try to find a pathway to victory.

Federer won 82 per cent (16/21) of approach points, 88 per cent (21/24) of serve and volley points, but only 34 per cent (22/65) from the back of the court as his groundstrokes lacked the normal rhythm on the slightly faster courts in a warm daytime match in Toronto.

Owning the Baseline
Tsonga increasingly made Federer uncomfortable from the back of the court with deep groundstrokes, especially with his return of serve. Tsonga repeatedly went after Federer’s backhand once the point began and it did not contribute a single winner for the match for the Swiss star. Federer often looked off balance hitting his backhand, amassing 30 errors, including 18 groundstrokes and 12 returns.

In the opening set Tsonga directed 71 per cent of his backhands cross court to Federer’s backhand and 55 per cent of his forehands through the Ad Court, pounding away at the comparatively weaker wing. Tsonga edged ahead 19 to 13 in baseline points won in the opening set but overwhelmed the Swiss maestro in this area in the second set, winning 25 points to nine from the back of the court.

With Federer serving at 2-3, 30-30 in the second set, Tsonga had won nine of the first 11 baseline points to begin the second set, ramping up backcourt pressure. With Federer serving at 4-3, Ad In, in the second set, he had incredibly only won four of 23 baseline points for the set.

Federer’s forehand fared better with nine ground stroke winners and he struck every one of them standing inside the baseline hunting the short ball. But once Tsonga developed the rally and got the ball deeper, Federer succumbed with 24 forehand groundstroke errors (14 standing in the Deuce / 10 standing in the Ad) and nine returns.

Even though Federer was trying to keep the point as short as possible, Tsonga still won more rallies under five shots, (66 to 55) and held the edge for points lasting between five and nine shots (22 to 17) as well. Only eigh eight points (5%) out of 170 made it to double digits, with both players winning four each.

Tsonga’s Sensational Serving
A remarkable aspect of the encounter was that Federer was not able to earn a single break point despite Tsonga only making 50 percent of his first serves for the match. It may not have gone in much, but it was almost impossible to win points against as Tsonga won an amazing 94 percent (33/35) of first-serve points for the match. In the Deuce court, he attempted 14 out wide, made eight, and won all of them. He was not nearly as accurate down the middle in the Deuce, only making 6 of 19, and winning all of those.

The Ad Court showed similar patterns as Tsonga only made six of 16 down the middle, winning five, and made 10 of 15 out wide, winning nine.

The writing was on the wall early as Tsonga only made one of his first six serves in his opening service game, but he consistently hit his second serve well with smart speeds, kick and placement, and won a healthy 62 per cent (22/35) for the match.

Federer’s Net Play
One of the often unsung strengths of Federer’s game is his ability to execute several different game plans if others are failing. With the back of the court proving to be a losing proposition, he served and volleyed a considerable 24 times; including seven on second serves, winning five of them. Overall, he served and volleyed 17 times to Tsonga’s backhand (winning 16) and seven times to the forehand (winning five).

Once the rally began, he was always looking for a quick way to sneak to the net. Out of a possible 103 rally points (less aces, doubles faults and return errors), Federer finished the point at the net 45 times, representing 44 per cent of his total opportunities.

The evenness of the match was also reflected in total distance run, with Federer only running five more meters (1363 to 1358) over an hour and 47 minutes.

Brain GameCraig O'Shannessy uses extensive tagging, metrics and formulas to uncover the patterns and percentages behind the game. Read more at www.braingametennis.com.

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